Ely in Cambridgeshire is the UK’s most haunted city – based on analysis of more than 67 million historical newspaper pages conducted in time for Halloween.

Family history website Findmypast analysed their extensive collection1 to reveal which of the UK’s 76 cities had most ghost stories to tell.

Researchers drew from newspaper archives published between 1710 and 2021 to see what city had the most mentions in articles about ghosts.

The figures were then adjusted for population

size, using an average historical figure to reflect change over time.

Ely, which ranked top, saw nine mentions of ghosts in newspapers per 100 residents.

The spooky Cambridgeshire city ranked just ahead of other cathedral cities Durham, Salisbury, York and Oxford, which make up the top five.

Examining the archives in depth reveals a range of spooky stories over the past 300 years that explain why Ely took the top spot:

  • The Haunted Bedroom, Oliver Cromwell’s House – Reported 1997, Lynn Advertiser: Oliver Cromwell and his family moved to Ely in 1636 and lived for a decade in a 13th-century house near Ely Cathedral. Cromwell inherited the property during his time serving as a member of Parliament for nearby Cambridge, well before the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642. The house has now become a popular tourist attraction and the bedroom is said to be haunted – some say by the ghost of Oliver Cromwell himself. Reports include visitors seeing orbs and ghostly figures at the estate.
  • Jerry Newell of Potter’s-lane – Reported 1866, Cambridge Independent Press: Seemingly, ghosts have long roamed the streets of Ely, and newspaper records from the 1800s tell the spooky tale of Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Newell’s ghost. Jerry is thought to have died after he “slept upon a damp dunghill” after getting heavily intoxicated. After his death, Ely residents claimed to see the ghost of Jerry at a place called Potter’s-lane where he used to live. An elderly lady was the first resident to encounter Jerry’s ghost, and a newspaper article from 1866 says that she was “frightened out of her wits”. Neighbours kept watch the next night, and his ghost appeared again, which caused one of the witnesses to faint. Following the sightings, several residents of Potter’s-lane even considered leaving the area.

Jen Baldwin, research specialist at Findmypast, said: “From Dickens to The Woman in Black, people in the UK have clearly been fascinated by ghost stories for centuries.

“Whether Ely really is a hotbed for paranormal activity or just more partial than most to a spooky tale, it remains fascinating to see the forms in which this topic appears in the papers both then and now.”